|When in Chicago, Col. Ellsworth led a|
famed group of Zouave soldiers.
My column Monday juxtaposed an Evanston woman confronting a group displaying a Confederate flag—on a towel, adding that low comedy touch—at the beach there, with Col. Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer to die in the Civil War after taking a stand against what he had called the "Secession Flag."
Reaction, as you can imagine, was heavy and all over the place. Mostly positive thoughts from readers, I should point out. But also some who seemed more keen to highlight the right to display banners of treason and hate—as if I were unfamiliar with the Constitution—while ignoring the aggressiveness of the act.
A prime example—and surprising, since it came from a regular reader—was this:
Today’s column misses an important point, i.e. the Confederate flag displayers' First Amendment right to free speech. Like you and so many others, especially as an Evanston resident, I found the flag display was disgustingly racist. Still to be devil’s advocate, how is this any different than when Nazis marched years ago in Skokie and We’re defended by the ACLU? Imagine the frustration if everyone at the beach just ignored the yahoos and their racist banner. Just sayin’...I replied this way:
Your email puzzles me. Of course I didn't "miss" that the oafs displaying their Confederate towel are within their Constitutional rights. What of it? That point seems a red herring. You are waving [the] 1st amendment when it comes to traitorous bigots advertising their creed. Yet urging silence upon decent patriotic Americans whom, last time I checked, enjoy the same 1st amendment rights. Are you certain you've thought this opinion through? Thanks for writing.A number of people stressed this aspect.
I agree with you about what the flag represents but it’s also there [sic] right to hang it and that’s the bottom line ?I replied:
No one argues that. The losers displaying the flag have the right. Just as the patriotic Americans have the right—I believe the obligation—to pause and pour contempt upon them. Thanks for writing.Maybe the unspoken part is this: bigots are broken, frightened people. Airing their prejudices, as if they were a reason to be proud, is the closest they come to strength. Prejudice is a kind of philosophy for morons, and pushing back can seem like setting New York theater critics loose to pick apart the acting in a kindergarten play.
Thus silence is not only easier, it can seem kind. The problem is that the haters aren't satisfied. They take everything they can get and a little more. Today's beach towel becomes tomorrow's flag which becomes next week's new law. Having lost the Civil War in 1865, the losers inched back, until it almost seemed like they won. They're inching still. We see the result in the White House and all around. Hate is on the rise. Time to stamp it back down where it belongs, back into the sewer of shame from whence it came and must inevitably return.